T.S. SATYAN writes: Mysoreans in the late 1940s and early ’50s were familiar with the sight of the shortest man in town moving around in a tricycle-shaped vehicle that was pushed by a boy towards the Deputy Commissioner’s office every morning.
However, not all of them were aware that the life of diminutive Anantharam was a profile in courage reminding them of Jawaharlal’s Nehru’s words: “Success often comes to those who dare and act. It seldom goes to the timid.”
I went to meet him in September 1952 in the company of my six-foot tall friend, B.V.K. Sastry, who was his colleague at the District Treasury where Anantharam, then 42, worked as an accountant.
While Anantharam’s life inspired all those who came to know him, Sastry, whose passion for music was legendary, went on to become a highly-respected musicologist and critic personally known to many celebrated musicians in the country.
Sastry looked a giant beside Anatharam who was a two-foot dwarf in 1952. Together they made a stunning picture for my camera!
Anantharam was born a dwarf to extremely poor parents and was crippled in his early years. His parents died when he was in his teens, leaving him three younger brothers to support.
Many wondered if this poor handicapped boy had any chance of success in life but Anantharam proved them wrong by not allowing his appalling poverty and the cruel hand of fate to suppress his zest for life. He relied on his courage, strength of purpose, fortitude and the will to succeed in spite of handicaps.
Endowed with a keen sense of wisdom even as a boy, Anantharam felt that a good education was the most essential requisite for success in life. He did not beg his way through school and college. He earned every anna needed for his maintenance and education himself by giving private tuitions.
After passing the SSLC examination he got admitted to the Yuvaraja’s College in Mysore and then went on to study at the Maharaja’s College with history, economics, political science and Sanskrit as his subjects. He graduated from the University of Mysore in 1935. He was the cynosure of all eyes at the convocation when he received his B.A. degree from the Maharaja.
“The question of my getting a job, thereafter, was not difficult,” Anantharam told me. By then he had already attracted the attention of the Dewan, Mirza Ismail, and his cabinet colleagues who were present at the convocation.
They admired his guts and offered him a government job. The news of his successful fight against great odds reached the Maharaja who presented him with a small motor-car for his use. Anantharam used this for some time, but later preferred to move around in a tricycle-shaped vehicle with a steering wheel that was pushed by a boy. The government also sanctioned a special grant for its maintenance.
“I have been enjoying my work at the district treasury as an accountant all these sixteen years,” Anantharam told me in his gruff but proud voice when I met him in 1952. “I arrive at the office half-an-hour early and go home half-an-hour late. I like it that way.”
I would find him sitting beside Sastry and engrossed in his work—examining the entries in the bulky registers brought to him every now and then by a peon. The peon himself looked impressive in his white close-collared coat and turban. The dawaali displaying a brass badge of his office was slung across his shoulder.
The little man used a small wooden box to do his work on the table. A flight of mini steps had been provided for him to get on to his chair. It was amusing to see him literally jump over the steps.
Anantharam seemed to enjoy his work that would take him far into the evening every day.
It was wonderful talking to him as he was always cheerful and had a great sense of humour. He was an avid reader of the Illustrated Weekly of India to which I was contributing articles and pictures.
“I am the shortest man in town and also the shortest graduate of the University! Double degrees!” he would tell those meeting him for the first time before bursting into a guffaw. If you did not respond with an equally hearty laugh he would look at you eye ball to eyeball and, with an enigmatic smile ask: “Nagri, nagri. Enu Swami, nimage nagoke barodilva”?
I once asked him if he was happy working for the government, if he had any desires. “Though I look forward to many more years of useful service, I have been cherishing a desire, for some time, of going abroad on a holiday before I retire,” he said.
That desire remained unfulfilled. Anantharam passed away while still in service, like a soldier who died in battle.